The holiday season is always a challenging one for me. I come from the strange juxtaposition of having a strong connection to community and family in a broader sense, while also experiencing an often-toxic nuclear family. In practice, my holidays often mean nasty arguments and re-entry into situations and ways of relating that I’ve worked really hard to separate (or perhaps more accurately free) myself from.
I love my family and they will always be important to me, but over the last few years it’s become increasingly evident that for my own mental health and sense of self-worth I will need to start letting go of the part of my life where I spend extended periods of time with them. Especially at this time of year that can often bring a sense of obligation to be (or at least act) happy and spend time with family no matter what.
I know that I can’t keep pretending that my family dynamic is one I’m okay with being in, but the process of unentangling myself from it is easier said than done. I’m getting there though, and I feel like this year (with borders closed and a lockdown in Sydney) will be a good test of how not being with my nuclear family over the holiday will feel.
All that being said, I don’t feel like I am completely without family this holiday season, or that I will be completely without it if I do ultimately decide to refrain from joining my nuclear family overseas during future holidays. I have my chosen family around, and I know that although my original, nuclear family might be a harmful space for me, my family does not begin and end with them. I have family and communities that love and hold positive space for me, even though this year I will not be able to see many of them.
Us former kids from toxic homes often get the phrase “Blood is thicker than water” spouted at us when we try and talk about the harm our original families have caused us. Personally, I like to remember that the original version of that saying is actually “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb” meaning that the family we choose is the family that is important. And this year I will be surrounded by mine. If the holiday season or family is hard for you too, I hope you get to be as well.
This piece was written by one of the ICLA eFriend Peer Support Workers. eFriend is an online platform where you can connect with a trained peer support worker whom has their own lived experience of feeling lonely, isolated, stressed or worried. You can speak to your eFriend Peer via video or phone call. Your eFriend Peer will listen, validate and provide hope. If you like, they can also assist you to identify any other services you may like to try or help you create plans to improve your personal well-being. Or they can simply listen.

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